Celebrating 2023: A New Year message from Chiva’s CEO

As we welcome in 2024 and begin to focus on plans and intentions for the coming year, I thought it would be good to note down some reflections from last year. To acknowledge successes and show gratitude and appreciation before we start to look ahead.

Supporting more young people around the UK

In recent years, Chiva’s support provision has grown, from running national projects to developing more community-based support in clinics. Through the regional support programme, we aim to ensure quality of life is central to clinical care. Chiva currently has four specialist support officers working in regions around the UK, with core team members extending this support to Bristol, the South West and Wales.

In 2023, regional peer meetups were able to get fully back up and running after the restrictions of Covid. It was fantastic to also see developments in this programme, including a first meetup for parents and younger children, a group at risk of increased isolation due to dwindling numbers.

One parent’s message after a picnic meetup organised for little ones (eight and under) in London.
Raising awareness, building knowledge

In 2023, we developed a suite of medicine-related resources for young people. Collaborating with health professionals, a group of young people living with HIV, and partner aidsmap, we produced a comprehensive medicines handbook, information sheets and an animation series. Look out for the launch of My Medicine, My Health on social media over the next few weeks.

Chiva also developed the Positive Advice podcast series, with support from Raise Your Hands, bringing the voices of young people living with HIV together with the views of leading experts. The Chiva Youth Committee also developed their own podcast series, Don’t listen to my HIV listen to me! – a powerful and frank exploration of feelings and experiences around growing up with HIV.

Beginnings and endings

There were a few exciting beginnings in 2023. We delivered our very first families residential in April, a weekend bringing together parents and carers and their children who live with HIV, but also parents who have grown up with HIV and now have children. We were delighted to work with Angelina and Fungai from the 4M Network and have now committed to this weekend being part of our ongoing annual programme.

Chiva rebranded in 2022 to mark a key development in the organisation as we extended our work to support young adults. The Blueprint programme, led by Abi and Thoko, ran for the first time in 2023. It was developed through a co-production process with young adults who had grown up with HIV. Going through this process enabled us to be more in tune with ongoing support needs in young adulthood and build a programme around their identified priorities.

27 young adults attended the Blueprint residential retreat in November.

Last year we also welcomed new staff members to our small but growing team, Lineo, Thoko and Kate, and saw Sam return from her maternity leave. Chiva’s staff team is a small team with a big mission. Working at Chiva requires a special amount of passion and dedication. I would like to extend huge gratitude to the staff team who go the extra mile to help us deliver our programme of work.

Some things also came to an end. Positively Spoken, Chiva’s oral history project which has been running since 2021, officially ended with 2023. We celebrated the project on December 1st at an event hosted by the British Library, who have been fantastic partners in helping us deliver this project. Nearly 40 young people’s life stories have been recorded and will be preserved at the National Life Stories Oral History Archive at the British Library in perpetuity.

Working with Dr Wendy Rickard, an acclaimed HIV oral historian, has been such a pleasure, and our trained-up project team of interviewers, designers and communications leads have ensured youth participation remained at heart of this project.

We have commissioned art pieces from Cai Burton, which capture extracts from the life story recordings. Musician Awate also worked with a group of young people to create two compositions which were shared at the British Library event. More creative outputs to come.  

Celebrating Positively Spoken at the British Library.
More difficult times

In 2023 the Chiva community were deeply saddened at the passing of one of the young adults who had been involved with Chiva for many years. Young people, staff and volunteers who had known her for many years were deeply affected by her death, and we hold dear the many memories of her.

We’ll be remembering the words used to describe her by her friends, ‘safe and loyal’, ‘playful and loving’, and especially her huge smile. As the year passes, we will continue to think of you and remember you.

Financial support for our work in 2023 was gratefully received from ViiV Healthcare, Gilead Sciences, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Hollyhock Foundation, Raise your Hands, and Drue Heinz Charitable Trust. We hugely appreciate the support from funders which enable us to carry out our mission.

As we start 2024, I am filled with gratitude reflecting on the journey we shared in 2023 at Chiva. As we remember the beginnings and endings, I express deepest appreciation to the volunteers, staff, partners, and supporters who make our mission possible, and to the young people we have the privilege of working with.